Abortion clinic granted a protest-free zone following years of ‘harassment’
- Council approves PSPO around Fallowfield abortion clinic
- Service users and staff welcome 'no judgment' safe space
- Sister Supporter pledges to continue campaigning until safe zones implemented for all abortion providers across UK
The Marie Stopes International abortion clinic in Fallowfield has been granted a no-protest safe zone after years of intimidation from anti-abortion campaigners.
It is a victory for campaigners following their three-year battle for the buffer zone to be approved by Manchester City Council.
‘Killing lives’ and ‘think of the baby’ were some of the messages anti-abortion demonstrators shouted through megaphones at service users and clinic staff.
There were also religious demonstrations and one woman sat outside the clinic breastfeeding her babies.
Shelley Doherty, 43, has worked at the Marie Stopes clinic almost five years and says she has experienced the harassment and the distress it has caused women on a daily basis.
Shelley said: “It was dreadful to witness coming into work. It was gut wrenching for us as staff.”
The buffer zone (a public spaces protection order) covers the Marie Stopes International clinic and its vicinity, prohibiting prayer vigils, leaflet handouts and any other form of anti-abortion protest.
Shelley has been instrumental in the three-year battle for the buffer zone, providing evidence and support.
She has worked alongside Sister Supporter, a pro-choice organisation passionate about helping women access a legal healthcare service free of judgement and harassment.
There is a six-week appeal period for the PSPO allowing anyone to challenge it in the high court, but already the clinic has seen less protestors since the news.
Shelly said: “I feel better coming into work now. We will all feel like a weight is lifted off our shoulders”
After the six weeks have passed unchallenged, those who break the order can be fined or be prosecuted.
In the meantime, the pink vested volunteers of Sister Supporter remain outside the clinic to support service users.
For the organisation the victory is just the beginning of a bigger mission calling on the government to implement buffer zones in all premises registered to provide abortion services.